Oct. 9, 2006

Plenty of horsepower

By Matt Kane
Staff Writer

Joe Koppi of Mayer is a spiritual man and he isn’t afraid to show it.

He doesn’t step up on a soap box and verbally preach, though, that’s not his style. Koppi prefers to take the long road to spread his faith.

Koppi set out on a three-week journey across central Minnesota Sept. 26, reining his two-horsepower wagon up, down and across the paved highways of Minnesota.

The word “horsepower,” can be taken literally, as the power that is pulling Koppi and the old west-style covered oak wagon, which he built, is provided by “Bessie,” 18, and her daughter Josie, 11, two Belgians. Not providing much pulling help, but along for the ride, is “Smiley,” a donkey, which walks to the right of Josie.

“I need a casette tape of ‘Walk the Line,’ because that’s what he does,” Koppi said of Smiley’s position on the white road marking that separates the lane from the shoulder. “He walks the line.”

The team didn’t make it too far before its first stop. It pulled off to the side of Wright County Road 8, just before the Highway 25 intersection for a little break.

“We missed breakfast, so we are having a little snack,” Koppi said, while feeding his three workers handfuls of ditch grass.

Waverly was the final destination for day one. From there the trip took them and will take them to Howard Lake, Clearwater, Little Falls, Sauk Centre and Villard before returning to home base.

Koppi said he has everything he needs loaded in the wagon, but still relies on the kindness of others along the way.

“I depend on farmers, so I can pull in their yards,” he said. “All I need is a place to put the horses, and to get water for them.”

After pulling the estimated 4,500-pound load for dozens of miles at a time, the rest stops and refreshments for the horses are gravely needed. Especially considering their ages and conditions. Koppi said the latter is part of the reason for the jaunt.

“Just to spread the message, and to love your neighbor and live the gospel,” he said of his first objective. “And to get the horses in shape.”

Koppi said Bessie was doing most of the work at the beginning, and he hoped the lesser fit Josie would learn to pull her weight.

This type of mission isn’t new to Koppi and his team. They have made six such trips, one taking them as far north as Eveleth, and have covered 1,500 miles.

Koppi hopes to be home from the current trip by Oct. 20, where his wife will be waiting.

When asked what she thinks of his trips, Koppi quickly answered, “She doesn’t. That’s why I’m traveling alone.”

Only in a manner of speaking.

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